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Looking At The State Of The Eagles

Posted Mar 12, 2017

After a two-day free agency flurry, the action has cooled significantly. The market is for buyers now, and each day that passes makes it more that way. Those players on the streets have, for the most part, lost their leverage. Teams have the advantage. The Eagles are continuing to monitor all, but the focus has shifted now to the NFL Draft in late April ...

After a two-day free agency flurry, the action has cooled significantly. The market is for buyers now, and each day that passes makes it more that way. Those players on the streets have, for the most part, lost their leverage. Teams have the advantage. The Eagles are continuing to monitor all, but the focus has shifted now to the NFL Draft in late April.

“We’re not done yet,” Howie Roseman said on Friday as he met the media following the additions of wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith along with offensive guard Chance Warmack, and the retentions of linebacker Najee Goode and offensive lineman Stefen Wisniewski. “We know there is a lot more work to go.”

During this time, then, as the Eagles push the “pause” button during these slow days of free agency, let’s take a State of the Eagles look at things. What did the Eagles accomplish in the first couple of days of free agency? What areas must they address moving ahead?

THE IMPACT OF JEFFERY AND SMITH

Carson Wentz just became a much better quarterback with the additions of Jeffery and Smith, both of whom have the ability to “go get the football” and do it in a physical, strong way. Jeffery gives the Eagles a player who has the skills to go up and get the “50/50” balls. He helps with his 6-3, 218-pound body matching up against cornerbacks. He demands attention from defenses who don’t want to leave him alone in single coverage. Look for the back-shoulder throws from Wentz to have success down the field. Watch as the Eagles implement the fade pass into the end zone, knowing that Jeffery will go up and get it.

In Smith, the Eagles have a receiver who can get behind defenses and stretch the field. If you watched San Francisco’s offense the last two seasons, you saw quarterbacks struggle to get the ball down the field. There wasn’t enough arm strength at times. The accuracy was lacking. Smith did his part, but the football just didn’t get to him. He will have the chance to do what he does best here: Beat cornerbacks with his speed and give the Eagles a home-run threat.

The receiving corps became a whole lot better with the additions. That doesn’t mean the Eagles should be done addressing the position, so we will see how the Eagles address wide receiver moving forward. As it stands now, Jeffery and Smith figure to line up outside, with Jordan Matthews in the slot. That’s a good threesome. Nelson Agholor could really benefit here as he fades from the spotlight. Maybe he can find his confidence and relax and play good football. I’m of the thought that Agholor will be a much better player in 2017 than he was in 2016. He could be a very valuable role player in the offense.

WHAT WARMACK AND WISNIEWSKI MEAN FOR THE OFFENSIVE LINE

Depth, depth, depth, and options. Look around the league and what do you see: Teams scrambling for help along the offensive line. Not here. It wouldn’t be a shock if the Eagles are finished addressing the offensive line. Now they have two groups of players that are going to push each other and give coach Jeff Stoutland a lot of confidence knowing he has quality starting experience up and down the depth chart.

How will it shake out? We shall see. The Eagles could probably pencil in Jason Peters at left tackle, Jason Kelce at center, Brandon Brooks at right guard, and Lane Johnson at right tackle. The job is open at left guard, with veteran Allen Barbre and second-year man Isaac Seumalo as the leading candidates, but Warmack figures to challenge on the left side and he will very possibly challenge Brooks on the right side. Wisniewski wants to start, but for now he looks to give great depth at both guard positions and at center behind Kelce. Second-year man Halapoulivaati Vaitai made great progress last season and is a terrific prospect at the tackle positions.

Not only do the Eagles have depth and an expected high level of competition in the months ahead, they have assets to deal should teams come calling. It’s not out of the question that the Eagles have some opportunities to acquire draft picks for some of these veteran reserve pieces at some point between now and the start of the regular season.

HOW DO THE EAGLES REPLACE CONNOR BARWIN?

Everyone understands why the Eagles released defensive end Connor Barwin – his nearly $8 million cost against the salary cap, his age, and his reduction in production. However, Barwin still played 70 percent of the snaps in 2016 and he ranked third on the team with 5.5 quarterback sacks and with 11 quarterback hurries.

So who steps up? Brandon Graham is a Pro Bowl-level end who brings it on every snap. He needs help, though. It’s a big year ahead for Vinny Curry, who signed a contract extension prior to 2016 and then had his least-productive season. Curry needs to have a positive frame of mind and go out and win a job and show that he can be a high-level starter.

Marcus Smith and Steven Means are in the mix as well. The draft is said to be loaded with great prospects at the position. Would the Eagles consider taking one at No. 14? You’d better believe it. The Eagles will be open to everything at 14.

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WHAT IS NEXT IN FREE AGENCY?

There are a lot of veterans still out there. There are a lot of good football players still on the streets. A glut of veteran running backs are available. Some really good interior defensive linemen are out there – Dontari Poe, Jonathan Hankins, and Bennie Logan, for instance – and their price tags are coming down by the hour. Linebackers like Dont’a Hightower, Zach Brown, and Perry Riley remain unsigned.

So maybe the Eagles will get back in the game now that the market has settled considerably. They don’t have a lot of room within the salary cap, but didn’t we say that about this time last week?

AT WHAT OTHER POSITIONS DO THE EAGLES NEED TO ADD PUNCH?

You get the idea that the Eagles want to address as much of the roster as they can in free agency and in the draft, so keep that in mind. And other than maybe tight end and now offensive line, the Eagles can use more pieces. But at the top of the list, the Eagles need help throughout the defense, particularly at cornerback, end, and linebacker, and on offense they have to find more production at running back.

HOW DOES THE TRADE MARKET LOOK?

The Eagles reportedly were involved in a lot of trade talks last week, but nothing materialized. That doesn’t mean Roseman will stay quiet. Anything is possible, whether it is dealing veterans for draft picks or sending draft picks away for players the Eagles think can be productive here.

We’ve got a long way to go before April’s draft is here. Stay tuned. Anything can happen at any time, as we know from experience watching how Roseman and the Eagles operate.

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